One evening, I was having dinner with a friend and found ourselves talking about a chair in his house. I joked, “Can I have that chair?,” to which he replied, “Sure.” Wait what, I can? I remember that I hurried to pay the bill so that we would get to his place before he had a change of heart.

The chair was a Mandarin chair from Knoll. A single steel pipe, looped to create a strangely unique form, was designed by Ettore Sottsass, who led the design group Memphis. According to Google, there were various colorways back in the 1980s when it first came out. The most famous one is the red pipe black upholstery combo. The one that I now own was this colorway in the beginning. But I felt the color was a little too bold for my house (no offense to my friend) and decided to get the pipe repainted.

A furniture store gave me a hefty estimate, but a local shop that specializes in painting bicycle frames okayed my super low proposal. After much contemplation, I settled on mustard yellow. I had come across a decor on Pinterest in which a Mandarin chair in this color was placed with a sun-bleached dining table, and taken a cue from it.

And so that is how the Mandarin chair came to be the way it is in our house. It does seem to have settled into the landscape of the room, but there still seems something awkward about it. Upon closer inspection, I find out that the mustard yellow pipe chair that I had referenced was as not made of steel but bamboo. Meaning it was unpainted. I had a tinge of regret for having not known this and having painted it a new color, but oh koredeiinoda! (It’s okay!)—I channeled Bakabon’s dad and moved on.

The fabulous contrast between the shiny arms and the raised fabric. And I also like how the pipe runs under the seat. The colors are great of course.

By the way, at the Akasaka Post Office in Aoyama 1-chome—for some reason, there are Mandarin chairs at the counter. And they are the red pipe model. Seeing a reminder of the bygone days makes my heart palpitate, so I had sworn to myself never to step foot in that establishment. But unfortunately, the other day, there was an emergency that could only be dealt with at the post office so I had to enter its threshold. Lo and behold, the Mandarin chairs were gone and in place were (reproductions of?) Arne Jacobsen’s Seven chairs, all lined up. What is going on in this post office? My heart palpitated with a different emotion.

Written by Shigeru Nakagawa
Photographed by Seishi Shirakawa